Last spring’s acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal was merely the first step in Steve Kerr’s refashioning of the Phoenix Suns, as earlier today today Boris Diaw and Kobe-fave Raja Bell were shipped to Charlotte in exchange for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. Hersey of The Rising Suns strikes a philosophical tone, stating “It sucks to see players you like leave, but the NBA is a business and the Suns got younger with two classy, professional players to improve chemistry.” Except, of course, Hersey doesn’t seem to like Diaw so much.

As much as I like Raja and what he brought to this team, I love this trade. The Suns get something they desperately needed- an athletic guard who can create his own shot. Richardson fits the bill perfectly. He’s won the Slam Dunk contest and he’s got endless range. Upgrade. Now he has a much bigger contract than Bell but there’s where Boris comes in.

It’s no secret Boris has become an overpaid joke. $9 million bench players who pass too much don’t endear themselves to fans or teammates. Boris can find new party spots in Charlotte and figure out what real accountability is once he suits up for Larry Brown.

We also get Jared Dudley, who I really like as a role player for this team. I watch a lot of ACC basketball so I’ve seen this guy grow as a player. He’s got a high basketball IQ and great tenacity. He’s a true role player who won’t hurt the team when he’s on the floor. Losing Sean Singletary only hurts if the team can’t sign another veteran point guard. They have two weeks to add a 13th player to the roster. The draft pick figures to be good, if the Bobcats stink next year an early second round pick is probably a first-round talent.

So on paper, this trade looks great but it all comes down to how the chemistry develops. Chemistry has been the big issue this season and it’s the reason Bell and Diaw have new addresses. The heart and soul or D’Antoni’s teams (Bell) and his biggest failure as a GM (Diaw) are gone. Kerr has made it clear he will give his coach a roster that will play the way they want.

An hour before the undermanned Suns visit the Lakers, the somewhat sanguine NonaFlash Jr. has the following questions for Kerr over at Bright Side Of The Sun :

When did you attend the Kevin McHale/Isiah Thomas School of Stalling by Trading Players?  I don’t recall seeing that diploma in your office before.

Can J-Rish deliver defensive toughness at all?  Why did we just pick up another 7SOL player in exchange for our Bruce Bowen Jr?   Is there a really a plan?

What’s with the Singletary/Dudley throw ins?  The Trade works straight up with just J-Rich for Diaw/Bell.

Basically, now the team is back in training camp mode.  If it’s broken anyway, what’s a little more monkeying around?  Good for the hype.

As for Phoenix’s former coach, D’Antoni used only 7 players in New York’s 121-109 defeat of New Jersey tonight, with Al Harrington scoring 39 (15 for 16 on free throws). Reports of Tim Thomas’ decrepitude —-he scored 26 off the bench — have been greatly exaggerated (by me).